11:23. What a beautiful number. I tend to get obsessed over small things. A number on the clock as I begin or end something; the hand-overcast edge of a woolen blanket I ran my fingers along every night as I went to sleep as a child; an iron trivet on a red tablecloth during a last lunch with friends; the key colour or message or symbol of someone’s profile image on social media; the mind-expanding brand name of a freshly opened bottle of wine. I sometimes think they are messages, coming through from the divine. A fixation on details can be dangerous, or it can be fine. The power of the brain to associate things can lead us places we didn’t expect to go.
I’m no scientist and I’ve lost my passion for online research, referencing and general detective work to layout addiction processes and habit-forming mechanisms here, but most of us are probably very familiar with those by now anyway, and we can all probably think back and recognize what pleasurable and healthy associations led us to first try something that immediately gave us the reward we were hoping for, but that later became a toxic habit.
For me alcohol meant reduction of social anxiety, it meant inclusion and a kind of notoriety/popularity, it meant absolution from personal responsibility, it meant the right to feel pleasure.
Later it meant increase of post-social anxiety, it meant self-exclusion, it meant terrible shame and it meant pain.
Today I have one month of sobriety again. It hasn’t been hard at all. What was incredibly difficult was the process of getting to that decision again to give up alcohol completely. What I could not stop thinking about, wondering about, wishing about (that I could moderate to my own satisfaction) finally (again) had to go.
I was drunk maybe five times during that four or so months of re-attempted moderation. It was enough for me. Most of those times I experienced a lot of pleasure. I think we are conditioned in our society to hear or read the word “pleasure” and immediately feel guilty, so much is the word pleasure associated with sexuality, and so much is sexuality taboo. But what about non-sexual pleasure and sensuality? Alcohol awakened that in me. Pleasure in all the senses of a moment, in its ridiculousness or beauty, in its imperfection, its strangeness or complete and utter normalcy. I was suddenly able to tolerate and even enjoy the “out-there”-ness of a stoned family member. The monkeyishness of the kids at the dinner table. The lewd/crude jokes of my irreverent and fun-loving partner.
But later? I just felt ugh. It had not been all of whatever makes *me,* profiting from that moment’s sensuality. It had just been my own inner monkey — mostly one that loved to please.
Then the rest of me kicked in, and quite literally started kicking in, the next morning. It gave me a right self-shit-kicking.
“Why did I say that!? I would never have said that.” Etc.
Last month on this date I had hit another “high rock bottom.” I am so lucky that I have kids, maybe, combined with that ultra-obsessive self-conscience of responsibility, that my parents both consciously and unconsciously put on me. If I didn’t, I’m sure my rock-bottoms would have been quite low by now.
So what happened exactly, what flipped the switch? Basically on that last night of drinking, my family and I were watching a family movie. It was something with the amazing Marky Mark in it. It’s about a go-getter couple who’re into real estate and flipping houses and they become very successful through all their hard work, but they put off having a kid for a long while and then decide they want one after all, but can’t get pregnant. Long story short, they decide to foster or adopt. They end up, against all original plans, with three older kids, instead of one very young one. And the movie is just great (at least, in my humble and then-drunk opinion… come to think of it, should probably watch it again… but now associations with having been drunk the first time will probably make me cringe…)
So I’m loving the movie (as I can relate to a bunch of details in it, though things went differently in my own life), and remembering my and T’s dream to not only have kids of our own, but also adopt some who needed a good home, and I’m processing all kinds of things I’ve been taking in over the past weeks, mainly from the kids and what they experience at school, and I get this bright idea that one of my younger teenage son should invite over one of his acquaintances that is really struggling. He’s at the skate park most school days, selling things. I think, he just needs some encouragement, positive input, a good example, a welcoming environment and everything could turn around for him. I tell my son he should definitely, definitely invite him over here. Like next time he sees him. Tell him he can come over any time and all the time.
Like, oh my freaking god. Right?
So the next day, all the happy buzzy feeling of the booze are gone, all I’m left with is a headache from who knows how many glasses of wine from that box that T keeps on the top of the fridge (impossible to keep count, all I remember is the huge smile on my face and whispering “God I love you” every time I hear that shushing sound of the wine sloshing into my glass as I stand on tiptoe to tap the spout. That colour of it. Liquid rubies. So many positive associations. The colour of freedom, of relaxation.
Now the colour of embarrassment, regret, and pain.
I’m remembering what I promised or suggested to my son with such exuberant vehemence and I’m just so so ashamed. The size of my ego. The intensity of my own ignorance. The commitment I made that I cannot possibly morally keep because: 1) Breaking current laws (that have to the world’s reaction to Covid) — and much worse, inviting a child to break those laws. 2) Um, hello, what good example am I inviting him to follow exactly? I’m getting drunk, how could I help anyone get sober?
It basically came down to that old, never-tired airplane cliché of putting your own air mask on before trying to help anyone else. But let’s mix metaphors. Where were my roots at? I was uprooted. I’d lost my deep connection with inner/higher power, with spirituality. And one fine day (yet again) alcohol made me believe I was tapping back into it, by allowing me back into enjoying the moment, and temporarily absolving me of my heavy sense of responsibility. But the side effects, and after effects, were mentally killing me.
So morning one month ago, having all kinds of mounting anxieties, I decided to finally reach out to the only sobriety-preferring support group I could find online in my *actual,* *local,* community. This was major! Like, having “real-life” people—besides my family and close friends—know (by name and face!), judge and possibly label the real me??? In a small town, from which there is no seeming escape?
Although I love people, I am also somewhat terrified of people, and have been since I was a kid at school, and found out that the real me (creative, naturally spiritual, inquisitive/intellectual, highly sensitive and caring; fun-loving—hey, doesn’t that sound like most children?—) was mocked, oppressed, pushed down, told to be more normal and *less* like me.
Like most people who end up at that place of reaching out for help outside oneself, I had to break through all kinds of fears, egotisms, pre-conceived notions and prejudices in order to do that. So I am so damn proud of me.
Also, I am so, so damn grateful to those kind and patient folks who welcomed me. In spite of how awkward and imperfect I am on screen.
Kind of like you, here, who have so very, very kindly supported me, although (necessarily) in words and spirit only. Even though I failed before. Grateful to you. Huge thanks.
And thanks to the Tree. I imagine the leaf-buds are just beginning to unfurl right now, maybe…
Lots of love, thanks for reading